On the Evolution of "Blogroll Amnesty Day"
Tuesday, February 3 is Blogroll Amnesty Day. Old timers know that this holiday has a rather sullen history, but now it is a happy occasion: On February 3, bloggers are invited to post links to five blogs you like, that have smaller traffic than your own. It's a great celebration and a time to discover new blogs and link them and stuff. As I said last year, "not to get all mushy here, but do you know how fucking great it is to be here in the blogosphere? Take a moment. Take it in." Spread some linky love.
Small and newbie bloggers please be aware of the ironclad rule that you are not allowed to make "hey no blog is as small as mine" jokes regarding Blogroll Amnesty Day. The rule is, straight from the queen of the indy blogs herself (ahem), that you are not allowed to complain or mention your blog's low traffic until you have been posting daily for a year. If you're little, link other blogs that are new or still growing their audience, and encourage them to practice their craft daily. Then, show them how.
Ah, I do remember the great "amnesty" controversy quite well. Really didn't show the A-Listers in a very positive light, imho. John Swift sums it up nicely:
remember how difficult it was to get people to notice my blog when I first started out. "Build it and they will come," apparently only works with magic baseball fields. The only way to get anyone to notice my blog was to get them to link to me and that was not always easy. I linked to other bloggers and clicked on those links hoping they would notice my link in Sitemeter. I sent emails to other bloggers asking them to take a look at my latest piece or to add me to their blogrolls. I instituted my "Liberal Blogrolling Policy" offering to exchange links with anyone who linked to me. As more blogs began to link to me and add me to their blogrolls, a curious thing began to happen. More people came to my blog from those links and from Google. And many of those readers then visited the blogs that I linked to. Though it cost nothing to link to someone, I realized that on the Internet links are capital. Every link has value. And when two bloggers link to each other, they both profit.
The idea that links are the capital of the blogosphere seems so obvious that you would think an economist like Atrios of Eschaton would have realized it long ago. And as he is a progressive who has accumulated quite a bit of link wealth, you might also think he would be in favor of redistributing some of that wealth instead of just letting it trickle down. So when he announced last year that he was declaring February 3 Blogroll Amnesty Day, and other bloggers followed suit, I assumed he meant that he was opening his blogroll up to the masses. I sent him a polite email pointing out that his blog was on my blogroll and I would really appreciate it if he would add my blog to his. I never heard back from him.
When February 3 rolled around, many bloggers discovered to their horror that instead of adding new blogs to his blogroll he was throwing many off, including some bloggers who were his longtime friends. Blogroll Amnesty Day, it turned out, was a very Orwellian concept. Instead of granting amnesty to others he was granting amnesty to himself not to feel bad for hurting others feelings. Though Atrios has stubbornly refused to acknowledge that he made a mistake, some bloggers who initially joined him, backtracked. Markos of the Daily Kos instituted a second blogroll that consisted of random links from diarists. PZ Myers of Pharyngula now has real Blogroll Amnesty Days where he invites anyone who has blogrolled him to join his blogroll. And in the wake of the bloodletting quite a number of smaller blogs, like my friend skippy the bush kangaroo, changed their own blogroll policies and now link more freely to others.
Ironically, Blogroll Amnesty Day had a net positive effect for the blogosphere as a whole. I discovered a number of great blogs and made new friends and I am sure that is true for others as well. And so instead of remembering February 3 as a day that will live in infamy, let's turn this day into a celebration of the power of smaller blogs. Let's recognize that building an inclusive community of diverse voices is what the blogosphere should be about, not creating a new elite to replace the old mainstream media elite. This year there were a number of stories that the big blogs missed that were being covered by smaller blogs such as the Jena 6 and the situation in Burma. I hope someday that Atrios and other A-List bloggers will join us in recognizing that they could learn a lot from reading smaller blogs rather than getting all of their news from a few limited sources. And instead of attacking big blogs or each other, I hope smaller blogs will take this opportunity to expose themselves to other voices that often don't get heard.
I think it's very cute, the way in which blogosphere traditions develop. This is a story that we should all remember, especially at places like this, where we've been branded as "toxic" and generally become social pariahs to many A-List communities. Not that I give a shit. It's better to be right, than popular. FWIW, Corrente stayed on many people's blogrolls after the Great Culling. I chalk that up to the quality of our content, which no matter how much it may annoy, is still valuable.